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Emory

"Bring a knowledgable friend" advice for beginners

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Reading the thread about beginner looking for a $300 starter, saw the good suggestion "bring a knowledgeable friend". The brain trust here is far more coherent and wise than my brain flailings & thought would be of benefit to any newbies who are lucky enough to come here. Soooo... thoughts about what sort of minimum level might be considered "knowledgeable". I didn't know diddly when I started at 16, there was no internet, and thought anyone who could play lead to "Act Naturally" must be knowledgeable... a luthier would probably be ideal, but again I'm asking for minimum.... I know enough now to be of some help, and often here in Thailand I am more than happy to step into that role. I despair at times looking at the donated to Goodwill guitars, lots of them what I consider junk, and think of the well meaning parents or whatever that bought those things with hard earned cash only to find they were crap.

.... thoughts, comments, opinions?

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I have played that role a couple of times. I think the important attributes are to be able to play moderately well in the genre that the newbee is interested in (I wouldn't have a clue how to help someone who wants to pay metal) and has enough experience to tell when a guitar is more or less set up correctly. Ideally a store clerk can help with this but my experience is that they fail pretty dramatically.

 

What I have done with a couple of friends is to walk around my local music store and talk about various guitars that they have hanging on the wall - basic differences between sizes and shapes and strings and many of those things that you and I might take for granted. I'll take a few guitars down and play for my friend - shifting back and forth so she can hear differences and we can discuss what she is hearing. If there are a couple that she is somewhat interested in I will tell her what I think of the playability.

 

I try to play simple stuff - some basic chord progressions, pattern picking, but hopefully within the genre that she aspires to. I'm honestly not a very good player but I can cross musical boundries pretty well - I can play something jazzy or bluesy or folky - even a couple of classical things. Its not about my playing, its about her hearing herself playing that guitar in a year or so.

 

I try to help her understand budget and differences and growing into (or out of) a guitar. I try to stand between her and the clerk, who mostly is interested in making the sale. I try to explain my view on buying in a local music store (and I often let the store people overhear that because I think they need to remember).

 

Its mostly worked - I have two friends who play guitar today and I like to think I had a small part in it

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A knowledgeable friend would be someone who has played guitar for a while - long enough to know what kinds of problems guitars might suffer from, and skilled enough to recognize them in a guitar you're considering buying so you can avoid making a costly mistake.

 

If you don't know a guitar player that fits that description, taking the guitar to a local music shop for an evaluation is an alternative. Think of it as analogous to buying a used car - if you're not a mechanic, or don't have a friend who's good with cars, you'd want to take the car to your mechanic to get their approval before purchasing it, right? Same thing with used guitars. While a seller probably isn't going to just let you take it away from them for "evaluation", they can meet you at the local store...

 

 

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When I bought my very first guitar, circa 1965, I just assumed they were all playable...imagine my surprise when I tuned that $12 Kent and the action went up half an inch. When I bought my next guitar, I had a much better idea what to check, and I wound up selling that guitar to a lady acquaintance for what it cost me, and she was so happy to have a guitar with great action. I went through a series of Teisco's and Ekos after that, so when I went to buy my first really good $100 acoustic in 1971, I cleverly brought an old friend who was a Martin owner, played in a local band and was far more knowledgeable than I ...he definitely was worth the cost of the subway ride and lunch. We went to Manny's, and I tried out a number of 'student' models, finally settling on a Guild D25M, and they threw in the chipboard case...I still have that guitar, the case did not survive ;)

Since then I have been that 'knowledgeable friend' more times than I care to count...

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I will add to my above note that I did go with a friend to help evaluate a guitar he had found on Craigslist. It was an old Guild 12 string, medium condition and definitely needing a neck reset. I showed both the owner and my friend what was involved, told them the going rate and the owner sort of shrugged - he knew. My friend passed.

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. . . If you don't know a guitar player that fits that description' date=' taking the guitar to a local music shop for an evaluation is an alternative. Think of it as analogous to buying a used car - if you're not a mechanic, or don't have a friend who's good with cars, you'd want to take the car to your mechanic to get their approval before purchasing it, right? Same thing with used guitars. While a seller probably isn't going to just let you take it away from them for "evaluation", they can meet you at the local store...[/quote']

Unfortunately, this only works if the tech/sales guy/gal knows what he/she is doing. A while back I bought a set of pots for my bass from a local shop and quickly realized the sales guy--who also did repairs--knew less than I did.

 

Let's also remember that someone who plays--even someone who plays really well--might not actually know much about guitars. I'd been playing for 40 years and gone through maybe four guitars before I knew how to do a setup. I could replace tuners, saddles, and the like (the old Mel Bay Music Center once gave me a "pro discount" because I intended to replace my own saddle, LOL) but I had no clue overall.

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Unfortunately, this only works if the tech/sales guy/gal knows what he/she is doing. A while back I bought a set of pots for my bass from a local shop and quickly realized the sales guy--who also did repairs--knew less than I did.

 

Sadly, that's true - there's no shortage of repair shop or music store employees who aren't as knowledgeable as they should be - but generally, most are going to know more than the typical total beginner. You could ask to speak with the store owner or manager to try to get them to hook you up with whichever one of their employees can give you the best advice... but this is another good argument in support of the "best to buy a new guitar rather than used" recommendation - I still think that's the best approach whenever possible - especially if you don't know of someone local that is knowledgeable that you trust.

 

Let's also remember that someone who plays--even someone who plays really well--might not actually know much about guitars. I'd been playing for 40 years and gone through maybe four guitars before I knew how to do a setup. I could replace tuners, saddles, and the like (the old Mel Bay Music Center once gave me a "pro discount" because I intended to replace my own saddle, LOL) but I had no clue overall.

 

It probably varies considerably here, although I suspect that most people who have been playing for a few years or more know, if not how to repair a bridge that's pulling up or a sunken-in top on an acoustic, or a guitar with serious action issues, at least enough to recognize that something significant is wrong with it... but again, if you don't know of anyone like this, you're much better off buying a new guitar from a reputable / authorized dealer - while there can occasionally be issues with new guitars too, at least you'll have the warranty to fall back on.

 

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Another potential person you might be able to seek advice from is the person who you're planning on taking lessons from. Most experienced teachers are going to have horror stories about some of the junk that students have brought in to "learn on", and should know the difference between a decent, playable guitar that would be appropriate to learn on and a piece of junk that is going to hinder the student and fight against their best efforts - or (IMO) just as bad, contribute to bad habits now that will be difficult to break later when the student moves up to a better instrument.

 

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Reading the thread about beginner looking for a $300 starter' date=' saw the good suggestion "bring a knowledgeable friend". The brain trust here is far more coherent and wise than my brain flailings & thought would be of benefit to any newbies who are lucky enough to come here. Soooo... thoughts about what sort of minimum level might be considered "knowledgeable". . . .[/quote']

There's no international date line separating the knowledgeable from the ignorant.

 

Folks should just do the best they can. If a shopper knows a pro with thirty years' experience, great. If the best the shopper can do is a friend with two or three years' experience, that's who to take.

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